New Vision (Kampala)

10 July 2013

Uganda: Confusion After Bishop Buries Local Medicineman

Kasese — Rt. Rev. Jackson Thembo Nzerebende, the Church of Uganda Bishop for South Rwenzori Diocese led a service during the funeral of a renowned native medicineman.

Sources say Sebastiano Hangi Bakoko, 60, succumbed to diabetes last Friday and was interred after a funeral ceremony led by the retired bishop.

But the church man's involvement in the burial of a traditional healer received mixed reactions from some people.

In his sermon during the service, Rev. Nzerebende said the church cannot judge Bakoko's deeds, making it clear that the fallen medicineman had wedded in church.

He added that Bakoko used to contribute towards various church activities despite backsliding to his traditional medical practices.

Nzerebende hailed him for saving children brought to him for sacrifice - a move he said demonstrated just how the late feared God.

"Instead of sacrificing these children, Bakoko would instead take them to the Police for protection."

He urged the mourners to base their developments on Christian values so as to enter the kingdom of God.

Bakoko is said to have fathered 18 children, and reportedly had 40 grandchildren.

He was laid to rest at Kyambogo in Kichwamba sub-county, Kasese district.

Lt. Col. Mawa Muhindo, the district chairperson, praised Bakoko said of him as an obedient tax-payer.

About 10 years ago, Bishop Nassan Turyamureeba of the Pentecostal Churches in western Uganda attempted to convert Bakoko but in vain.

He is said to have denounced Christianity in 1970. So some Christians in Kasese were not happy that Rev. Nzerebende led his burial ceremony.

Their source of anger mainly came from what Bakoko inscribed at his home.

Residents say he had erected a signpost at his residence that read: "Abarokole munyiheho akamanyiro. Tindirokoka nyowe nindagura na mahembe gange nkakara." Translated, it reads: "Born-Again Christians, stop interfering with me. I will never be born-again and I treat my patients using ancestral spirits."

The sign post was still at his home at the time of his death.

But Bishop Nzerebende said feared for Bakoko's life then, adding that he wanted to use the opportunity to preach to other people who have not "accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour".

"I was not wrong and I understand that Bakoko was not a believer of Christ. However, as a person, I could not judge him.

"I also wanted to use the opportunity to preach to the people so that they can turn to God," Nzerebende said.

The traditional healer was the owner of Shauri Yako Market in Kasese municipality.

What they say

The Rev. Can. Patrick Masereka

The bishop should not have participated in Bakoko's burial because the man had denounced Jesus Christ before he died. The Anglican Church does not encourage this. We shall demand an explanation from the bishop in our meeting with him.

Baluku Kalibuliro, a driver in Kasese town

I expected the traditionalists to preside over the burial of their colleague, but I was shocked when the bishop officiated at the funeral service of Bakoko. The man had made it clear to everyone that he did not want anything to do with Christians. The signpost at his residence is evidence enough. I am shocked that it is a bishop who presided over his funeral service.

Julius Mumbere, a Christian at St. Paul's Cathedral

We were shocked when we saw the bishop escorting the casket of Bakoko to his final resting place.

William Nzoghu, the Busongora North MP

Emulate Bakoko by investing in poverty-eradication activities rather than luxury.

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